HDV - So What Should I Do?

Within a decade, most households will have a 16:9 HDTV, and viewers will become more accustomed to watching high definition TV.

For most of you, shooting in the 16:9 aspect ratio will be a new experience. The tricky part is framing shots that look good in both the 16:9 aspect ratio AND 4:3 (traditional NTSC TV). Most of you will have to presume that some people will want to view your video on a traditional TV using the letterbox feature, while others would prefer to trim off the sides of the 16:9 image.

While most DVD players include a widescreen view, most players don’t upconvert the standard-definition DVD content to a high-definition signal. The majority of HD content is currently delivered by over-the-air digital TV stations, cable and satellite outlets. However, most of us don’t have direct access to those outlets. There are two formats competing for the direct delivery of true HD content to the end user: Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Currently, you can encode your content using formats that can be viewed with a computer, but not with most of today’s set-top players, (e.g., QuickTime HD, WMV HD, Nero Digital, etc.) Still other options will enter the market for downloadable HDTV. It will take years to sort all of this out, but you do need to look ahead and plan for both aspect ratios at some point in the future.

Until the format war is over, the easiest way to distribute your HD videos is to use your HD camcorder to playback your videos on an HDTV. Featuring your video on an HDTV, even if it is only on your own TV, is incredibly impressive for your clients, friends and family. The impression of showing your videos in HDTV cannot be underestimated. You and your viewers will be impressed, and watching video you produced on an HDTV set is a good reason to make the break and purchase an HD camcorder and an HDTV set.

Wedding video producers have a greater interest in HDTV because their work will still appear contemporary, several decades from now. Wedding videos are an excellent use for HDTV videos. Currently, we can’t watch the vast majority of TV shows and movies with this new high-resolution image, so a wedding shot in HD will make the event look extraordinary.

Many of you will look to us for advice on which format will prevail, Blu-ray or HD-DVD. We have not tested any equipment as of yet. We expect burners and recorders for both formats will be available later in the year. The claims of superiority from each camp in the format war have begun long before the arrival of prototype hardware at tradeshows. Most blank media companies are playing it safe and will offer both Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

It is an exciting time to be making video. I encourage you to jump in as soon as you can!

Matthew York is Videomaker’s Publisher/Editor

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